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Server 2016 licences for hosts and VMs


We're building two identical host servers running RAID10 arrays to provide Server 2016 Hyper-V hosts and then run possibly three VM's with replication.  Assuming we are doing this purely with Microsoft at this stage, I am trying to bottom out how many licences we need to buy.  To complicate matters one of the VMs will run Server 2016 Essentials and will be DC of course. One of the other VMs will run SQL Server 2016.

So my understanding is that I will need:
1 off Server 2016 Essentials licence for the DC VM
1 off Server 2016 Standard licence for the two hosts
1 off Server 2016 Standard licence for the 1 SQL Server 2016 licence

All the reading suggests that the two Hyper-V Hosts can share one of the Server 2016 Standard licences, if they are only Hyper-V hosts and use no other roles - is this correct?  The SQL VM will need the second Server 2016 licence to run SQL Server 2016- is this correct?

Then any subsequent VMs will need their own OS licence as we build them?

Any clarification would be really helpful, as I'm going round in circles talking to Microsoft!

Thanks, C
Windows Server 2016Hyper-VMicrosoft SQL ServerAzure

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8/22/2022 - Mon
Cliff Galiher

First, taking advice on licensing from the internet is never a good idea. Find a *good* Microsoft reseller and work with them. Don't try to show around until you get the answer you want. Plenty of unscrupulous vendors will give you a bad answer just to make a sale and you'll pay for it in the end.  And taking advice here is also bad because "A guy told me on the internet that I was okay" won't hold up if you get audited. Which happens surprisingly often.

With that said, server 2016 is licensed by core, so the "1 off" just doesn't apply.  You also misunderstand host/VM licensing. Licenses can never be shared between hosts.

So what licenses you need will depend on the servers. Number of processors, and number of cores per processor.  There is no way to even remotely answer your question without that info.

OK - all understood and always sceptical anyway!

The two servers are built with 2 Intel Xeon X5560 processors each running 4 physical cores - 8 logical, or 8 physical/16 logical per server. These will by Hyper-V hosts only. I always knew the 2016 licensing model considers the cores, which is not my question here - none of the planned VMs would exceed the core numbers per licence.

I am just not certain of the Hyper-V role here - is this free in 2016 or does it use up a licence key?
Cliff Galiher

"none of the planned VMs would exceed the core numbers per licence."

Windows Server 2016 doesn't license VMs per core. The *physical* host is what matters and is what is licensed, along with the *number* of VMs. It doesn't matter if you give a VM 1 core or all of them, it won't change the licensing, since that is determined by physica server. And yes, the pyhsica server *must* be licensed if you are installing server standard or datacenter as the host, (so it'll require keys.)

"I always knew the 2016 licensing model considers the cores, which is not my question here"

Then your question still illustrates that you don't fully understand 2016's licensing.  Because your question makes no sense as asked.


I am trying to offer constructive criticism here, so this isn't just harping.  But your question currently as it stands is equivalent to "how much food do I need to feed a family?"

The answer is obviously dependent on the size of the family and its members.  Small kids eat less than adults.   6 people eat more than 2 people.  And when I ask the counter-question to answer you basically said "I know that the amount of food I need is dependent on family size, but that isn't my question here."    ....but that is *EXACTLY* what the question was.  The answer is intrinsically tied.

Even your answer doesn't help. Is it 4 physical cores, or 8?  You gave two answers, and so I still can't give you a good accurate answer back.
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Walt Forbes

Thank you for such a demeaning response.  If you had actually read my last reply, you would have had the information on the servers you requested. You had one answer.

"The two servers are built with 2 Intel Xeon X5560 processors each running 4 physical cores - 8 logical, or 8 physical/16 logical per server" - sorry what was not clear about that?

I'll spell it out again - Two physical processor modules per server; each single processor module has four (4) physical cores; each single processor module has eight (8) logical cores overall. Therefore each server has eight (8) physical cores or sixteen (16) logical cores in total when you add the totals of the two physical processor modules together.

No I don't fully understand the 2016 licensing concerning Hyper-V core hosts hence I am asking about it.  

The comments on the food are patronising, unnecessary and certainly not constructive.
Cliff Galiher

"each running 4 physical cores - 8 logical, or 8 physical/16 logical per server"

IF you don't see that your statement there is ambiguous then there isn't anything I can do to help you.  Good day.

A few things:

I am not sure it's a good idea to incorporate a 2016 Essentials installation into your mix. Essentials is meant to be a replacement for Small Business Server and thus has hard limitations on what you can do. For example:
Windows 2016 Essentials Edition does not include the Server Core install option and is limited to only one OS Environment (can be physical or virtual) and a maximum of 25 users and 50 devices.

So why would you build a nice, scalable network but then turn around and cripple it by using Essentials to control the entire AD forest?

With respect to your physical servers:
Microsoft has switched to per-core licensing. Each copy of Windows Server will license 2 physical processor cores (cores, not threads). Every physical core (core, not thread) in a server/host must be licensed for Windows Server.

The different versions of Windows 2016 Server have rules as to how many VMs you can run. I have over a dozen VMs running on my old Dell T620 server and the processors don't get anywhere near 100%. So I am happy to hear that you are embracing virtualization.

WIndows 2016 Datacenter Edition allows for an unlimited number of OS Environments or Hyper-V containers.

Windows 2016 Standard Edition only allows 2 OS Environments. (A server running one virtual machine in Hyper-V would be using 2 OS Environments (because the physical server installation counts for one))

If your plan is to run a relatively small number of Virtual Machines, then it might be more cost-effective to purchase multiple Standard Edition licenses. But if you think you'll end up needing more than 7 Standard licenses, it's more cost-effective to get Datacenter Edition.

Licensing is complicated. Even if you think you've got it figured out, do yourself a huge favor and get a Microsoft licensing expert to help you. If you contact CDW (for example), they will set up a conference call with Microsoft and then provide you with a proposal.
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Hi ecarbone, Thank you.

So from your comment:
"Each copy of Windows Server will license 2 physical processor cores" as the physical server has two processors with 4 physical cores each that gives me total of 8 physical cores = 4 licences of Standard edition?

The Essentials idea is customer driven as the CAL's are included and they have a great deal of familiarity with Essentials 2012.  They do not ever estimate needing more than 25 users/50 Devices in the lifetime of this server, but I do agree with you.

The plan was to build a Hyper-V core server and run everything on top of that as VMs including the Essentials.  They haven't planned to use Server 2016 Standard as an OS first with the Hyper-V role added.

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OK Thank you!